Among hikers, the Little Big Econ State Forest is well-known for its beautiful trails. The forest is 5,000 acres preserved in a suburban area in the middle of the triangle formed by Orlando, Cocoa and Daytona Beach.
You’ll find shady trails along the beautiful wild Econlockhatchee River, a major tributary of the St. Johns River and designated an Outstanding Florida Water. The Econ is a slow-moving tannic-colored river with some bluffs along its banks that add elevation changes to the riverside hike.
There are two main entrances with parking and good trail maps: The Barr Street Trailhead off SR 426 near Oviedo and Equestrian Trailhead and forest headquarters on Snowhill Road just east of there.
There are lots of hiking options: There are 16.3 miles of trails, including an eight mile section of the Florida Trail and a straight trail called the Flagler Trail because it follows what was Henry Flagler’s historic railroad line.
We took the scenic Kolokee Loop Trail from the Barr Street Trailhead because it follows the river as it twists through the woods.
To make the Kolokee Trail into a 4.7 mile loop, you need to consult the Kolokee Trail Brochure and use several other marked trails — the Flagler Trail, the White Trail and the Florida National Scenic Trail – to get you back to the trailhead.
Along the way, we admired the many large oak and cypress trees and used one of several benches to watch the river. We’re told it’s a good place for birding and wildlife viewing, but our only sighting was an alligator languidly swimming by. We didn’t bring a picnic, but decided these benches would have made good spots for a lunch break.
On our weekday visit, the only other visitors were locals walking their leashed dogs, but unfortunately, litter suggested the forest is used by many, not all of whom are environmentalists. It’s particularly popular on winter weekends.
Where does the unusual name come from? It’s a combo of two rivers: The Little Econlockhatchee River and the larger Econlockhatchee River.
Fees: $2 per person
Kolokee Trail Brochure [ PDF ]
Primitive camping at Little Big Econ State Forest
You can camp in the Little Big Econ State Forest in two areas: the West Camp Area is located near the Barr Street hiking trailhead and can be accessed only from the hiking trail and by canoe or kayak from the Econlockhatchee River Paddling Trail. The East Camp Area can be accessed only by canoe and kayak.
To camp, you must obtain a permit from the Little Big Econ State Forest office. To get a permit, contact the forest at (407) 971-3500 or email the Little Big Econ State Forest.
Here’s more about the hiking-accessible campground West Camp Area Brochure [ PDF ]
Mountain biking at Little Big Econ State Forest
The hiking trails are all on the northern side of the river. On the southern side, 12 miles of trails are designed for mountain bikes. Here’s the Bike Trail Brochure [ PDF ]
Little Big Econ State Forest Visitor Center and boardwalk
At park offices off Snowhill Road, the visitor center has educational exhibits and a boardwalk down to the riverside.
Other trails and parks near Orlando
The Orlando region is full of state parks, state and national forests and hiking, biking and kayak trails. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Wekiva River Basin: Wild and scenic
- Kayak Blackwater Creek and Lake Norris, splendid waterways near Mount Dora
- The West Orange Trail for bicycling
- Winter Garden and the historic Edgewater Hotel as a base.
- Kelly Park and Rock Springs Park
- Blue Spring State Park
- Ocala National Forest